With Pride marching into cinemas this week (Sept 12) we look back at 10 of the most uplifting and intense protest films… Made in Dagenham (2010) Sally Hawkins leads striking female workers at Ford’s Dagenham car plant in the true story of a 1968 walk out where women workers protested against sexual discrimination. 60s icon Sandie Shaw once worked at the factory and sang the film’s title track.
The Battle of Algiers (1966) Gillo Pontecorvo’s groundbreaking documentary-style film charts Algeria’s 1950s battle for independence from the French government. Shot like a newsreel, events unfolding in the Casbah are told from both sides as we follow the bombing orchestrated by the National Liberation Front guerillas and the torture employed by French paratroopers. It looks and feels eerily real.
Milk (2008) Gus Van Sant’s biopic of gay rights activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk will leave you with a heavy heart. Milk was the first openly gay man to win public office in California and was assassinated in 1978. Making his Oscar acceptance speech against the backdrop of the state’s failed gay marriage vote, Sean Penn said: “We've got to have equal rights for everyone.”
Gandhi (1982) Ben Kingsley won one of Richard Attenborough’s film’s eight Oscars for his portrayal of Mohamdas Karamchand Gandhi. The leader of India’s non-cooperation movement spearheaded a non-violent struggle towards freedom from British rule at the turn of the 20th century. The story of how he mobilised millions of the politically disenfranchised is told in compelling flashback.
If… (1968) In director Lindsay Anderson's tale of student revolt Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) and his posse of public school toffs are inspired by Che Guevara and rebel against authority with devastating results. Based on the French short film Zero for Conduct it was a surprise hit. At the height of the swinging sixties it tapped into a rising feeling of anti-establishment fervour.
Hunger (2008) Michael Fassbender announced his transformative acting talent as IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen's gruelling first feature. Harrowing prison scenes combine with poetic imagery taking us back to an era of political defiance at all costs. Sands led an ultimately fatal protest – his ravaged body was the battleground.
Zabriskie Point (1970) Michelangelo Antonioni’s epic of student revolt was shot in cinemascope. It might appear dated now with its almost non-existent narrative but the director’s approach to filming, normally the preserve of historical adventures like Ben Hur, sees him treat the screen like a massive canvas. Self-indulgent it may be, but never has failure been so glorious on the big screen.
The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008) Uli Edel’s pulsating drama charts the misfortunes of German terrorist group the Red Army Faction. The RAF carried out a wave of kidnappings, highjackings and assassinations driven by their revolutionary principles as far-left militants. Triggered by the visit to Berlin of the Sha of Iran in 1967 the story moves to the Middle East across 8 years of frantic action.
Cry Freedom (1987) Denzel Washington plays African activist Steve Biko in Richard Attenborough’s emotional film based on the memoirs of Biko's friend, the liberal journalist Donald Woods. The courtroom scenes are riveting as Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, fights oppression before he becomes a martyr to his cause at the height of South Africa’s apartheid regime in the late 70s.
Fahrenheit 451 (1966) Ray Bradbury’s dystopian 1951 novel took its title from the temperature at which paper burns. Imagining a bleak future where books are outlawed and firemen are tasked with incinerating them, New Wave director Francois Truffaut conjures up a climate of fear. In a slow burning story Oskar Werner's firefighter questions his task and the repression of society.